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Understanding Loss




Along with the obvious feelings of pain, depression, and sadness, there are other reactions to loss, such as:

  • Feeling helpless, fearful, empty, despairing, pessimistic, irritable, angry, guilty, restless
  • Experiencing a loss of concentration, hope, motivation, energy
  • Changes in appetite, sleep patterns or sexual drive
  • A tendency to be more fatigued, error-prone and slower in speech and movement


Any or all of these are to be expected during and after a loss. It's part of the body's natural healing process. Be with these changes; don't fight them. It's OK. If you haven't had an obvious loss, and yet you relate strongly to a good number of these reactions, you may want to examine the recent past to see if a not-so-obvious loss, or a series of them, has taken place.


Now, let's take a moment to view loss in the larger perspective. In nature, loss is an essential element of creation -- the rose blossoms, the bud is lost; the plant sprouts, the seed is lost; the day begins, and the night is lost. In all cases, loss sets the stage for further creation (or, more accurately, re-creation).

So it is in human life. It's hard to look back on any gain in life that does not have a loss attached to it.

With this firmly in mind we can examine the various losses in life. (Without this overview it tends to become awfully depressing.)


  • death of a loved one
  • breakup of an affair
  • separation
  • divorce
  • loss of job
  • loss of money
  • robbery
  • rape or other violence


  • moving
  • illness (loss of health)
  • changing teachers, changing schools
  • success (the loss of striving)
  • loss of a cherished ideal
  • loss of a long-term goal


  • childhood dreams
  • puppy love
  • crushes
  • adolescent romances
  • leaving school (dropping out or graduating)
  • leaving home
  • loss of "youth"
  • loss of "beauty"
  • loss of hair and/or teeth
  • loss of sexual drive (or worse, the drive remains but the ability falters)
  • menopause
  • retirement


(Is it on? Is it off? Is it a gain? Is it a loss?)

  • awaiting medical tests or reports on their outcome
  • a couple on the brink of divorce for the fourteenth time
  • a friend, spouse or relative "missing in action"
  • lovers, after any quarrel
  • a business transaction that may or may not fall through
  • a lawsuit
  • putting your house up for sale


There are inevitable losses-losses in which death or separation is imminent. When you recognize these in advance, it will help greatly to:

  • Discuss your situation with the person who is leaving.
  • If you are the one who is leaving, talk it over with those who are being left.
  • Take part in making the decisions that must be made.
  • Let your wishes be known


Temporary losses (lover on vacation, spouse in the service, son or daughter away at school, a slump in business)-even when we know the outcome will eventually be positive-are losses nonetheless.

Even success has built into it certain losses-the loss of a goal to strive for and the changes that are almost certainly part of success.

There are also innumerable "mini losses" that tend to add up during the course of a day, week, month or life. An unexpected dent in the car here, an argument with a friend there, and one can find oneself "inexplicably" depressed.

Each of these losses-immediate or cumulative, sudden or eventual, obvious or not-creates an emotional wound, an injury to the organism.